This new album, Roots, is definitely inspiring and the best music this band has ever put together. Their passion for their homeland is felt loud and clear. The first week to radio put them at the number one requested album as well as the most added, leading to a debut in the top three of all the charts. You have to respect the integrity of these musicians. Their hearts are definitely in the right place. I've seen their live show as often as possible and this tour will be no exception. You come out of their concerts with a renewed hope.
Q&A with Max Cavalera
Sheila Rene': Max the album is fantastic. Let's start with the interview
marathon you're on. You've got two more after me. What's the most asked
Max Cavalera: I think that's about it. Most everyone wants to know about the album. There's so much on it to talk about, the guest musicians and our trip to record the Xavante tribe.
SR: How was the evolution of this album different from all the others?
MC: It was time for a change because we've been listening to a lot of different kinds of music. I think as far as the subject goes it's time to show some of influences that hasn't come across so much from our homeland. We are calling the album Roots which is a worldwide term not just true of Brazilian. It's about the foundation of everything if you want to be in a band. After 13 years we're still holding strong. How can we struggle and how can we last so long...because we have roots.
SR: You were born stubborn and you have some attitude. Two of my
favorite songs on the album. Did you record at Indigo Ranch Studios in
Malibu, California because of the vintage equipment?
MC: That's right. I never thought I'd ever record in California because I have this L.A.phobia. The studio doesn't look like L.A. It's like a real ranch in atmosphere. It's on top of a mountain and has all the gear you could ever possibly imagine. We took advantage of every single one of them.
SR: The song you recorded in the canyon near the studio. What that
MC: The making of this album fostered more ideas every day. One day Carlinhos daughter was there and she started doing some percussion and we got the idea to move outside. Who says you have to record inside all the time. Let's break some rules here. We went to the canyon and it's a magical place. Really peaceful. "Itsari" is very much like the tune , "Kaiowas" that you did on Chaos A.D. MC: We just had to take it further. There was this opening road for us to go for on this album. I told the band we should just go for it. I think what we started on Chaos A.D. is something that needs to be continued. We just took the mixing of metal and hard rock with tribal percussion elements. The whole album is so fresh. There were over 15 different percussion instruments used in the recording of this album.
SR: The unlisted cut is a 13 minutes 15 seconds of percussion. It's from the
canyon recording. At the end of that it sounds like someone says "fresh."
Was that you?
MC.That's our producer who says that. That tune was the 13 last minutes out of four hours we spend recording in that canyon. There's a really strange fact from that because in the beginning of the Roots album it sounds like metal pieces falling.
SR: It sounded like crickets to me.
MC: That's right but there's a crack, a metal thing that cracks which is a piece of percussion. We all stopped and it was real quiet. Then he (Carlinhos) performed this prayer and he kissed that piece of percussion and he threw it into the canyon. That was really a spiritual thing that happened. We all looked at him and he had this great expression on his face, as if he was complete with that instrument. That's the beginning of that passage that goes for 13 minutes and in the end it's just his voice with the wind and some of the metal percussion. We look at that as a whole song. I ended up saving the piece of equipment he threw into the canyon because one of the artists recording with us came back from the canyon and told us he had found it. He didn't want it and I spoke up that I wanted it. It was really cool, the whole experience. "Ambush" was inspired by the book Fronteiras De Sangue (which means bloody borders). It tells the story of Chico Mendes, a great activist of the rainforests. He died protecting the trees from the burning and chainsaws of the blooksucking multi-nationals. The band views him as a real hero and this song is a tribute to him.
SR: I'd would have loved to have been around when you were working
with Mike Patton from Faith No More, Korn's Jonathan Davis and House
of Pain's DJ Lethal.
MC. It was great vibes. It was a combination that was quite out of this world in the studio. There was none of that "rock star" thing. It was all people who showed their soul 100% in a really cool way. That's how the whole thing was. It's hard to describe. It was magical.
SR: Another magical experience had to have been your trip into the
Brazilian jungle to visit and record with the Xavante people. I'm thrilled to
learn that it was all documented on video tape and that I'll perhaps be able
to see it for myself.
MC: It was documented by Gloria (Cavalera) in a really cool diary of everything that happened. For me that was the spiritual highlight of the whole record is that song. It takes you from the whole stress that's on the record." Itsari" takes all the stress away, the heaviness and intensity of the stress. That's what it does for me.The whole healing ceremony is there.
SR: There is certainly some healing there.
MC: It's weird. We just picked up on the dynamics of it all. We learned later when we asked what the song was about, that every song is a ritual for them. They say that "Itsari" is all about healing.
SR: Was it hard to set up the trip?
MC: It was hard but with the mentality and attitude of a really tough camping trip. We had to get yellow fever shots and once we were there the mosquitoes ate us alive. I've never been in a place like it and I lived in Brazil for 20 years. I had no idea this place existed. The humidity, it's really hot. It rains every day at the same time.
SR: Are you looking forward to touring Europe? You'll hit the U.S. in
March. I ran into Bobby Thompson at the Ozzy shoe in San Antonio,who
was out with you on Chaos A.D. He told me there was a chance that you'd
be touring with the Oz over there. Joe Barnes and Randy Castillo were
with me when Thompson mentioned you and they are all for it.
MC: Bobby is a great guy. That's cool. I hope that can come true.
SR: Talk to Gloria about Thompson's statement. Maybe we can make it
MC. We have been out with them before. It'll be up to Ozzy whether he can take a band twice on the tour. It's a good vibe touring with Ozzy. We did some touring on Chaos A.D. with him. His last two shows.
SR: He stayed retired all of a couple of hours.
MC. He's like us, we can't quit. I read an interview once with Bob Marley and he said to quit touring for him would be like quiting life. I use that as my philosophy. You can't quit your music.
SR: Have you been around any of those Korn guys? They're great.
MC. I don't know all of them but we got to get close to John. Their bassist also came to the sessions. John is the sweetest guy. He's quiet and mellow.
SR: The cover is very interesting.
MC. It symbolizes the connection between the Xavantes tribe. It's one of the highest moments. It was a hard take to pick the cover we wanted. We thought of putting pictures of Brazil but then we thought that would be too much a refuse and resist kind of theme. The face of an Indian, really serious and an expression of really thinking about something. It's beautiful but powerful. It's an intimidating like of face. The roots around his head were added late. The original picture was just the face and we added the Sepultura logo on the necklace and the roots. It all makes the connection.
SR: Do you think your fans really study your lyrics.
MC: I don't know. I talk to our fan club very directly. I get a visit from our fan club person every week. I have him bring me all the best letters. There was a letter from a 13-year-old kid from the suburbs of L.A. He wrote that he went to school every day and was surrounded by guns and gangs, racism and violence. The only thing that got him through was our music and he thanked us for our music. That letter struck me as being an inspiration for us to keep writing and performing. Someone is getting the message. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who don't give a f**k, they just want to party or whatever.I party mself.
SR: I believe you influence a lot of kids with your music. Thanks for your
music and your time today.
MC. I was influenced by lyrics when I was growing up. Your questions are always great. I'll be talking to you soon then. Thanks.